FTG 0014 - Starting a Second Career with Book Store Owner Lori Feathers '90

Episode 14 December 07, 2021 00:49:09
FTG 0014 - Starting a Second Career with Book Store Owner Lori Feathers '90
Following the Gong, a Podcast of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State
FTG 0014 - Starting a Second Career with Book Store Owner Lori Feathers '90

Dec 07 2021 | 00:49:09


Hosted By

Sean Goheen

Show Notes

Guest Bio:

Lori Feathers ’90 Lib is the co-owner and principal book buyer for Interabang Books a large, independent bookstore in Dallas, Texas, which she opened after retiring from a legal career in 2017. After Lori earned her Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in Russian from Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts in 1990 where she was Phi Beta Kappa, she earned a Juris Doctorate degree and a Master’s degree in international affairs, both from American University in Washington DC in 1993. Upon graduating she took a job at the US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, and during her tenure she traveled extensively throughout the former Soviet Union—spending time in 13 of the 15 former Soviet republics--as a member of various delegations working on US trade and investment issues in the region. After four years at the Department of Commerce, Lori was hired as an international oil and gas attorney by Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) and moved to Dallas, Texas. While at ARCO Lori chaired negotiations with companies such as Rosneft, Lukoil, and the Georgian State Oil Company for billion-dollar oil exploration and infrastructure deals, accumulating lots of frequent flier miles in meetings with officials in Moscow and Tbilisi. When ARCO was acquired by British Petroleum in 2000, Lori joined the corporate law firm of Haynes and Boone in Dallas as an international attorney. In 2005 she was hired by Dallas-based independent oil and gas producer Pioneer Natural Resources as its Associate General Counsel for International Business.

In addition to owning and running Interabang Books, Lori is a writer and a published book critic and was elected by her peers to serve two terms on the Board of the National Book Critics Circle, a national organization of book reviewers and publishing professionals. As a Board member she sits on the jury for the annual National Book Critics Circle awards. She is also Chair and Founder of the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses, a literary prize that supports the work of small publishers in the United States and Canada. In addition to reading books and writing about them, Lori enjoys a full life in Dallas with Kelem, her partner of 26 years, and their English bulldog, Botero.

Episode Specifics:

In this episode, Lori shares her insights on:

· Handling world changes that directly impact your major – like the fall of the Soviet Union

· Coming to college from a rural, small town and starting at a Commonwealth Campus

· Discovering passions and career interests in general education courses and deciding on a career in law

· Working for the government, private industry, and private law firms

· What it’s like moving far away from home after college – or law school

· Learning a new industry to be an effective lawyer

· Strategies for networking

· Tips for students pursuing travel intensive careers

· The differences between confidence and competence

· How to know when to call it a day on career #1 and pivot to something new

· How to position yourself as a business against the giants

· An inside look at what it’s like being a bookstore owner and book buyer

· Ways to be involved in the literary community without being an author

· Tackling childhood activities as an adult hobby


Schreyer Honors College Links: 




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Credits & Notes:

This show is hosted, produced, and edited by Sean Goheen ‘11 Lib (Schreyer). 

The artwork was created by Tom Harrington, the College’s Web Developer. 

The sound effect is “Chinese Gong,” accessed via SoundBible used under Creative Commons License. 

The theme music is “Conquest” by Geovane Bruno, accessed via Pixabay and used under Creative Commons License.

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:01] Speaker A: Greetings scholars, and welcome to following the Gong, a podcast at the Shrier Honors College at Penn State. Following the Gong takes you inside conversations with our Scholar alumni to hear their story so you can gain career and life advice and expand your professional network. You can hear the true breadth of how Scholar alumni have gone on to shape the old after they rind the gone, and graduate with honors and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. This show is proudly sponsored by the Scholar Alumni Society, a constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Sean Doheen, Class of 2011 and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back. [00:00:54] Speaker B: You. [00:00:55] Speaker A: Lori Feathers, Class of 1990, is the co owner and principal book buyer for Interrabang Books, a large independent bookstore in Dallas, Texas, which she opened after retiring from a legal career in 2017. After Lori earned her Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in Russian from Penn State's College of the Liberal Arts in 1990, where she was Phi Beta Kappa, she earned a JD degree and a master's degree in international affairs, both from American University in Washington, DC. In addition to owning and running in Terabyte books, Lori is a writer and published book critic and was elected by her peers to serve two terms on the board of the National Book Critics Circle, a national organization of book reviewers and publishing professionals. As a board member, she sits on the jury for the annual National Book Credit Circle Awards, and she is also chair and founder of the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses, a literary prize that supports the work of small publishers in the United States and Canada. In our conversation, Lori talks about handling world changes that directly impact your major, like the fall of the Soviet Union, coming to college from a rural small town and starting at a commonwealth campus, discovering passions and career interests in general education courses, and deciding on a career in law. [00:01:57] Speaker C: She also talks about what it's like. [00:01:58] Speaker A: Working for the government, private industry, and. [00:02:00] Speaker C: Private law firms, what it's like moving. [00:02:02] Speaker A: Far away from home after college or law school, learning a new industry to be an effective lawyer, and strategies for networking. [00:02:08] Speaker C: Lori also talks about tips for students. [00:02:09] Speaker A: Pursuing travel intensive careers the differences between confidence and competence, how to know when to call it a day on career one and pivot to something new. How to position yourself as a business against the giants an inside look at. [00:02:20] Speaker C: What it's like being a bookstore owner. [00:02:22] Speaker A: And book buyer, ways to be involved in the literary community without being an author and tackling childhood activities as an adult hobby. [00:02:28] Speaker C: With that, let's dive into our conversation. [00:02:30] Speaker A: With Lori Following the Gong. [00:02:39] Speaker C: Lori, thank you so much for joining me today on the show. I'm really excited for our conversation. Lori, you've had two entirely different careers and I'm really excited to talk about both of those with you. But if you can just give us a quick overview and glimpse into your two part journey to kick us off. [00:02:59] Speaker B: I'll try to be quick, Sean but it's a little bit of a meandering path, I would say. So I graduated with an honors degree in Russian from Penn State in 1990 and I was unsure of what to do with that degree. So I applied both to law school and also to master's degree programs in Russian. And ultimately I decided to go to law school and I went to American University in Washington, DC. And got my law degree and my Master's of International Studies degree. I chose American because I knew that I wanted to be dealing with international law, international relations especially as that pertained to the fast, eroding Soviet Union. I say that because this was around 1990. Glasnost. Paris Stroika it was becoming obvious that the Soviet Union was rapidly becoming a very different type of place at least in the way it was governed. So after graduating from law school I found a job with the International Trade Administration at the US. Department of Commerce in Washington, D. C and I was working as an attorney there. First, I was working in kind of a development office that worked closely with the United States Agency for International Development. I was traveling to Eastern Europe a lot kind of helping those governments figure out how to deal with a lot of commercial law issues that they were just starting to get a grapple on. Then I moved to a different office there and I was working on kind of a liaison position between United States oil companies and the government of Russia and the former Soviet republics to try to help US. Companies who wanted to invest there. I actually did my journal article in law school on US. Investments in the Russian oil and gas industry so that kind of worked well when I was at Commerce. In that role, I got to talk to a lot of executives at oil companies and one company in particular, Atlantic Richfield had just signed a big joint venture with Luke Oil who at the time was the largest oil company in Russia and they asked me to join them. And that took me to Dallas, Texas, where I never left. I didn't know that I was going to forever be Texan but it seems that that's the way it's working. And I worked for Atlantic orchfield until they were acquired by British Petroleum in 2000. At that time, I had an opportunity to move to Houston but it was going to be mostly domestic work so I decided not to do that. I went to a law firm in Dallas Haynes and Boone a large commercial international law firm. And I continued to represent not just oil and gas companies but big commercial companies there. I was there for about four and a half years and had the opportunity to go to another oil company in Dallas, pioneer Natural Resources, and I was hired as the associate general counsel for International there. And I worked there for about, I think, nine years. And then I decided I don't want to practice law anymore, and I retired from law practice and opened an independent bookstore in Dallas called Interrabang Books. And now you're up to date, and. [00:06:51] Speaker C: Somehow on top of that, you also are a volunteer with the college. You're on the Scholar Alumni Society Board, so can't forget that. And you're only on that because you were a university scholar. And I'd love to take it back to the very beginning of the story that you all got a brief preview of here of how you came to be at Penn State. And if I'm correct, I believe you started at the Altoona campus. [00:07:15] Speaker B: I did. So I grew up in a very kind of sleepy, cow pasture type of community about 35 miles from Altoona. And when I graduated from high school, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. I had initially enrolled actually, at Chippensburg University in their teaching program, but it never really felt right. And by the time I kind of got my act together, I didn't really have time to do anything but apply to altruist campus. I don't want to make it sound like it's like a last resort, but I didn't have to move. I lived from home my first semester, and it was an easy thing, and I loved it there. The first semester, I took a course on Russian culture and civilization by a professor named Irene Heard, and it totally changed my life. I didn't know much about Russia. I didn't know much about what I wanted to do, and I was kind of driftless before I started at Altoona campus. And I soon very quickly got a direction that I wanted to do things international, global. I took German language when I was out at Altoona campus. They didn't offer Russian language courses at the time at Altoona campus, but that's how I got to state College the beginning of my sophomore year, because that same professor, Irene Heard, wrote a letter of recommendation for me to come up to main campus so I could start taking Russian language. [00:08:55] Speaker C: I think that's a great origin story. You're trying to figure out your place, what your vision is. A lot of Shire scholars come in and they're like, I know exactly what I want to do. And you took advantage of the gen ed requirements and felt some things out and found something, because I was curious on how you came to pick Russia, especially in the late 80s, which was a very transformative time for what was then the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc. And I'm curious, knowing that you had a very international focus, were you able to study abroad while you were at Penn State? [00:09:31] Speaker B: I did. I was very lucky in that respect. So the summer between my junior and senior year, I studied at what was then Leningrad State University. It's now St. Petersburg. It wasn't strictly a Penn State program, but it was a program that was led by Georgetown University, and there were 125 of us, and we went as a group, and we were there for eight weeks, summer of 1989. [00:10:02] Speaker C: And so that was probably not the last time that you went to Russia. And we'll get into your travel in a moment, but you're getting into your last year of college, and you talked a little bit about this, but what was it that drew you to a career in law as opposed to any of the other options that a humanities a liberal arts degree opened up for you? [00:10:26] Speaker B: Maybe lack of imagination. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with a Russian degree other than teach. And as you said, Russia was at a turning point at the time, and it seemed really exciting. What potentially could happen there. It's easy to forget now, but in 88, 80, we thought Russia could be a big commercial powerhouse, and it could be like Japan and the United States and Germany like a Western, Democratized, business oriented economy. And so just the potential of what could happen, it seemed like getting some really practical skills could help with that. And so that's kind of why I veered toward a law degree. [00:11:30] Speaker C: I think that's great. And you said you also paired it with a master's degree at the same time. Did you graduate in the normal law school track of three years with that second degree? [00:11:40] Speaker B: It took me three and a half years. I have to say that the master's degree was kind of like the I don't know, when I was a kid, my grandmother always used to grind up a pill and then put my favorite jam on top of it to get it down my throat. And I felt like the master's degree was how I made a lot of my law courses palatable, because I didn't really have a fond love for torts and constitutional law and a lot of evidence, criminal procedure, a lot of the things that I had to take that really just didn't light up my imagination. But those master's degree courses in international studies with a focus on the East Europe, Russia stuff really helped and made all of it a little bit more enjoyable for me. [00:12:32] Speaker C: I'd say so you spend a couple of years at the US. Department of Commerce, and you're working with USAID, and a few years in, you make the transition from government work to the private sector. How did that come about? What was that transition like, going from federal work to private work? [00:12:52] Speaker B: It was exciting. It was a little scary. The main thing I loved living in Washington, DC. But I had enormous law school loans at the time, and I was not making a lot of money as a young lawyer with the United States government. So this opportunity to kind of work on this exciting new joint venture with a big international oil company just really kind of checked all the boxes in terms of where I thought I wanted my career to go at the time. And it was a fantastic decision. That was a great job. I often wonder if the company hadn't been acquired by British Petroleum, if I would still be Atlantic Richfield Company, know, working on deals there, because I really enjoyed that work very much. [00:13:54] Speaker C: And so that move, that's what precipitated you moving to Dallas, correct. From your overview. So you're from outside of Altoona. You described as kind of sleepy. What was that like kind of uprooting your whole life? And DC. Is Drivable from Altoona. That's a pretty short drive. But moving to Texas, that's an entirely different ballgame that we're talking about. What was that like? How did you go about that? What would you recommend to students who are, know, their first job out of college or going to graduate school really far from home? [00:14:27] Speaker B: Yeah, I didn't investigate Dallas at all when I got the job offer. I had never been to Dallas, and the first time I arrived in Dallas or visited Dallas was for my second job interview. The first one took place in DC. And then they flew me to Dallas to kind of meet a lot of the people that I would be working with. I have to say I didn't move here alone. My boyfriend of 26 years moved with me then, and we're still together now, but it was a little bit hard to integrate into a new know. Dallas is a very different city culturally than and it was I made good friends with a lot of people that I was working with. There were a lot of young people at Atlantic Richfield Company not necessarily working in my specific area, but a lot of young petroleum engineers and business people and accountants and that kind of thing. So that was nice. And we had a lot of business retreats, so I got to know them, and some of them are still my lifelong friends. But I think that my advice for students would be don't expect any place to be just like the place that you've left or that you've come from, and you've got to just really keep an open mind about where you are. And it was interesting for me to kind of find out about the Texas culture. I went to the state fair, and we kind of went to Billy Bob's. We wanted to kind of feel and see what it was all that was that was a lot of fun, too. It's a lot of discovery, and I. [00:16:19] Speaker C: Can certainly echo that. Before coming back to Penn State, I spent some time down south in North Carolina and Kentucky and moving to a different part of the country. There's so many cool things that you can explore, and I think that's great to try and understand and embrace those things. And you can always come home and visit family, which I think which is fantastic. More of a deeper question, not a hard question, but a deeper question that I'm really curious about. So you majored in Russian, you're working in law. You've got a master's in International Studies, international affairs, but you're working in the energy sector, particularly petroleum. There's whole majors here at Penn State around all of those areas. How did you go about learning the intricacies of a wholly different industry in order to be the legal support for these companies? [00:17:15] Speaker B: Luckily, at Atlantic Richfield, we had a policy where going into negotiations, whether they foreign, foreign representatives coming to us or us flying to them, there would always be a negotiator and an attorney paired up in each negotiation. It was a crash course in kind of having to learn this. I don't know if most people realize, and I kind of didn't until I got to Dallas, but in Texas, oil and gas law is a required course to pass the Texas bar. It was nothing that I ever took or that was required of me when I took the New York and Massachusetts bars. And luckily I'd been practicing law long enough that I didn't have to take the Texas bar. I did what they called waved in to Texas bar membership. But it was really some fast learning. I sat in on a lot of just listened to a lot of people giving presentations and talking about various facets of the oil industry. I was given and begged and borrowed a lot of dictionaries of oil and gas terms and a lot of things like that. And it was kind of intense and immersive, but it was also in some ways really fascinating because it was a whole different aspect of things that I just didn't know and wasn't aware of. [00:19:01] Speaker C: So you mentioned that after a few years at um, Richfield. Did I get that correct? [00:19:07] Speaker B: Yes. [00:19:08] Speaker C: Arco they were bought by BP and that's what precipitated you didn't want to move to Houston, so you went and became from being an in house counsel to a private law firm. Can you explain what the nuanced difference is between those types of attorney roles? [00:19:29] Speaker B: Yeah, I guess when you're in house counsel, you kind of are at the hand of the business people. If you've got good business people. There's always a joke about amongst in house attorneys that, oh, they only bring us in when something goes really wrong or at the last minute because they don't want to hear us say, no, we shouldn't do that, or we can't do that. But I had really good business people that I was working with, and they really kind of wanted me there from the get go. When you're at a law firm, you're more removed. Okay. And you're not able to attend all the meetings, and you aren't really there to kind of be involved in a lot of the decision making. And that can be a little bit frustrating when you're used to having a seat at the table from the very beginning of thinking about a project until the contracts get signed. So it was different. I have to say that the one thing about law firm work that I didn't think that I would like at all and a lot of people complain about is the business development aspect of it. I really loved the challenge of trying to foster and nurture new client relationships. I thought that was interesting. And for a while, I was kind of visiting and going to different law firms, doing workshops and different lunch lectures on different aspects of international law just to kind of get my name out there and to try to facilitate a relationship with some of the oil and gas companies in and around Dallas and Houston. And I really enjoyed that. I found it to be really challenging. [00:21:34] Speaker C: That sounds like you were doing a great job of networking. [00:21:37] Speaker B: Yes. [00:21:38] Speaker C: Do you have any other strategies that you found helped in that space that a current scholar could employ as they're starting to build their networks? [00:21:47] Speaker B: Yeah. Something that, when I look back now, I don't think I took enough opportunity to do is kind of really talking to a lot of the more senior attorneys that I was working with and understanding kind of their career trajectory and how they got to be doing what they were currently doing and what areas of the law that they worked in. When you're at a big corporate law firm, there are so many aspects of what you could specialize in and little niche areas that pop up that they need someone to become an expert in a certain area because business clients want it or are asking for it. So I wish that I had spent more time kind of really talking in depth to some of those attorneys about their career trajectory. I will say working for a corporate law firm can be kind of grueling and very a lot of hours. So sometimes when the work is done, you're just too tired and you don't want to hang around at 09:00 at night and talk to someone about, like, well, what did you start working on and how did you get into this practice group? But I think it's a really valuable thing, and just to cultivate mentorship within a big corporate law firm is a great thing as well. [00:23:29] Speaker C: And in really any career that you go into, if you're listening to this and you're on the fence about applying for law school or taking the LSAT, that translates to literally any other industry that you can think of. Lori, you were talking earlier. Obviously, given the specific type of law that you were practicing in the oil space and working in Eastern Europe. You did a lot of traveling, I imagine. Do you have any tips for students who end up pursuing travel heavy roles, be it in law consulting or otherwise? [00:24:07] Speaker B: Well, learn how to pack very efficiently and lightly because you do not want to be checking baggage because it's going to get lost and then you're not going to have anything to wear and you'll be wearing the same clothes for a very long time. I can't tell you how many trips I've been on that someone's luggage got lost and then you're running around trying to buy something at the local bazaar and it's just not good. I loved the travel. I got to go to some really funky places and a lot of the travel that I did was before 911. So we would literally drive in convoys through Uzbekistan and with the American flags flapping. It was like a TV show, really, and the women with their colorful skirts picking cotton. But at that time we didn't try to be inconspicuous. We were know, here comes the US government and now there would be no way that that would happen. I mean, I also did do some travel in bulletproof vehicles when I was on. Some of these were much it was a much more, I guess, anxiety ridden experience because we were just so naive about terrorism and what could happen after 911, though I did also go to some weird places. I spent about twelve days in Iran with Atlantic Richfield and that was on the eve of the revolution. And I'll never remember we were sitting, or never forget rather we were sitting in a government office having a meeting. I think it was the oil Ministry, I can't quite tell. There were so many ministries that we were meeting with and literally we could hear Death to America being chanted outside the window during the meeting. We didn't know what they were saying because of course they were speaking in Persian, but we were told that's what was going on. It was really fascinating to travel to all those many places. I got to see 13 of the former 15 Soviet republics. So if you have an opportunity to travel for your job, absolutely do it. I know that it gets more and more difficult, I feel like, as you kind of go through different phases of your life, relationships and then family, children, those kind of things. And it does take a toll on your time and your body because you're just losing a lot of time on an airplane. But it's a fascinating opportunity. [00:27:07] Speaker C: Not many Americans are on the regular getting to travel to some of these locations, especially countries like Iran. So emphasize that point. If you have an opportunity to travel for your job, take advantage of it while you can. Your life may not always amend to that. Laurie I asked you in the questionnaire that I send all of our guests in advance if you had any great pieces of advice and normally I would probably ask this at the end, but I think it fits in here. Before we talk about career number two for you and you made a reference to this idea of confidence and competence are not necessarily the same thing in professions. And I wanted to ask how do you stand out if you are maybe a little bit more shy or not to conflate these two things, but introverted in a professional setting? [00:27:56] Speaker B: I don't want to say a word that I shouldn't say on this podcast, but in life in general and in the business world in particular, there are a lot of bullshit out there and it's really easy. And it was very easy for me to be intimidated because I would see all of these people walking around and we would be in meetings about how to draft a contract or what kind of legal instrument we would need to effectuate something that the client would want. And people spouted off answers with like, well, of course we need this. And, you know, such complete confidence. And I don't know, at this point in my life, I'm 53, and I realize that not being absolutely sure of yourself right out of the gate or sure of the answer is a much more mature and measured and thoughtful way of looking at things. It's okay to say, I don't know the answer right now, but I'm going to find out for you and I will get back to you soon on that. In law practice, they really almost want the answers yesterday, but sometimes you're not going to get the correct or good answer right away. And I think people respect the fact that you're a careful, thoughtful person rather than just pretending that you know the right way to do everything or the only way to do something or all of the answers. [00:29:48] Speaker C: I think that's really insightful and a great way to wrap up part one. [00:29:51] Speaker A: Of our conversation here. [00:29:53] Speaker C: Insert the record stretch noise you pivoted you alluded to earlier. At some point you decided to hang up your law career. What was it that drove you to call it a day on the legal portion of your career? [00:30:10] Speaker B: I think it was just a growing realization that I didn't want to practice law my entire life. I will say that the types of law that I was able to practice during the last years of my corporate life was not international primarily and so that was disappointing to me. When I was hired at my last oil company as the Associate General Counsel for International, that all seemed great. But then that company quickly started divesting themselves of their international assets and so I found myself working more and more on domestic oil and gas matters, which was not as interesting to me and also was not an area that I was as adept at or experienced at. US. Oil and gas law is a whole different can of worms than international oil and gas law for reasons that I won't bore you with. So I knew that maybe I wasn't going to practice law forever. And to be honest, I didn't really think that I would jump to something knew right away. I just thought by this certain time, I'm going to leave law practice. And I'd always been a really avid reader, fiction reader in particular. And I started during my last few years of law practice, I started writing book reviews on the side that were published in a few print, but mostly online publications. And I loved it. It felt very fulfilling to be able to kind of do something different and to look at a piece of literature and kind of interpret it in the way that I saw it and to share my interpretation with others. And so what happened that I wasn't planning on was, as I was thinking about when it was best to retire, an opportunity came to open a bookstore in Dallas, which Dallas really didn't have an independent bookstore at the time. And so it was kind of one of those, know, lightning flashes that was well, I'm kind of feeling, like, mentally disengaging from law practice, and now there's this opportunity, and so maybe I'll speed up this law retirement and this other opportunity for the bookstore probably won't come around again for a while, if ever. So that's what made me jump. [00:33:25] Speaker C: So this was in 2017. [00:33:27] Speaker B: Correct. [00:33:28] Speaker C: All right, so obviously a lot of folks buy their books on Amazon. Borders has gone out of business a few years ago, and Etail is just growing and growing, growing. How does your store differentiate from those really convenient modern solutions and draw in customers and draw in a community? [00:33:52] Speaker B: Well, we understood right off the bat that we would need to have a very active and effective online store, and we do. You can order almost anything that you order from Amazon. From my online store, I can't promise the same low, low prices that Amazon because we're not selling in the same quantity. I mean, we sell the book at the retail price, whereas Amazon deeply discounts it. I also don't have an Interrabang Books Prime service, so I'm not going to be able to promise you that you're going to have your book in 24 hours or less. But the online component is really important, and it's never been more important than it has been the last year and a half with the COVID crisis, because a lot of people don't want to go to a store in Dallas. We didn't have to close businesses quite as long as other parts of the country. But there was a two month period last year where we were closed and we only had online sales. But I think that the experience is what. Differentiates an independent bookstore from a big box store or an Amazon. You come into an independent bookstore, and you feel like you're around people that love and know books. And we say at our store that the book really isn't the main product because you could get that book anywhere. The product is our people, the people that are selling you the books and are talking to you about the books and telling you what books they love. They're asking you what books you really love, and they're able to kind of make suggestions about books that you might not be aware of and that you don't know about. And so it's a whole kind of process of discovery that I think that you don't get with a lot of other retail types of experiences, online or in person. And I think that's what makes independent bookstores like MyStore and Terrabang books kind of special. And we do that if people don't come into the store. We have people that email us all the time as well about, I like this book. Do you have something to suggest? And then they'll buy it on our online store, but it's so much more fulfilling, I think. [00:36:23] Speaker C: Lori, can you tell me a little bit about what a day in the life of a bookstore owner and book buyer is actually like? [00:36:32] Speaker B: It's a lot of looking at online book catalogs for me, which I love, because I get to see all the great books that are coming out six months from now, and that's a real treat for me. And I get to ask my sales reps to provide me with advanced copies of those books, which is a super big treat. So I can tell you about some books that are coming out this fall that no one's been able to read yet. But if you're a bookseller, you can do it. So that's one of the big benefits of being a book buyer at a bookstore. I think the day to day is just a lot of kind of trying to be always responsive to the customers. I think we sometimes ask the customers more than they ask us in terms of they'll come in and ask for a book, and we'll see if we have it or see if we can order it for them if we don't have it on the shelf. But we're constantly asking, so how did you hear about that book? Why are you wanting to read that book? A lot of times they'll tell us, oh, my book club is reading it. Well, right there is a note to self immediately, okay, well, we need to get probably eight or nine more copies of that book in the store because other people are going to come in and want it as well. So it's a constant kind of the bookstore never looks the same on any given day. You leave it at night, and you come back the next day, and there will be new books, different books, and it all depends upon what we're feeling from our customers. And also a lot of what's going on in the know, in terms know, recent events in now, you know, people are wanting to read Rudolph Kipling's book, you know, or short story about Afghanistan, and they're wanting to read histories of the military operations. So it's a constant kind of adaptation to what's going on in the world around us. [00:38:48] Speaker C: So you have your hands full running a bookstore, which running a business, and being a small business owner is its own challenge. But you're also really involved, again, not only with the Honors College, but in the literary community. And you're doing a lot in that space with being a critic, podcasting, even creating some literary awards. Can you give us some insight into the broader literary community that you're a part of and leading in? [00:39:21] Speaker B: Yeah, it's a really fun and involved community, and there's a lot of areas of mutual support, and one of those is a book award that I'm launching here in the United States and Canada called the Republic of Consciousness Prize for small presses. And I don't know that a lot of people in the general public that don't follow this really are aware, but a vast majority of the books that are available for purchase in bookstores are published by five soon to be four big conglomerate companies. And that really is a situation that has evolved. It wasn't always like that. But those five have started gobbling up other medium sized companies and there's just been a consolidation that has been to the detriment of kind of editorial choices and publishing a wide variety of literature by a diverse section of the population and kind of getting different perspectives and different literary styles out there anytime. I think that especially in an art form like books, where you have just kind of a few voices curating and making decisions about what gets published and what writers are deserving of being published, you're kind of limiting the choices. And that's why I really do my best at the store and just in life, in my writing life, to support small presses, because they're really doing innovative things and they are taking risks that aren't based on commercial considerations, because they're not awarding authors or signing authors up to contracts for a three book deal for $900,000. They're making decisions more based on non commercial factors, and they run on really kind of tight budgets, and they're usually tiny, tiny sometimes just like husband and wife and running the small press out of their house. So I really admire what they do, and I'm really happy that we've been able to establish this prize that will be awarding books for the 2022 publishing year and hopefully 100 years beyond. I hope it has a good legacy. [00:42:10] Speaker C: I think that's great. You're finding a really important space that needs leadership and stepping into it and honestly, I wouldn't expect anything less from a scholar alumna like yourself to do that. We're in the tail end of our conversation here, but I'm curious. You obviously do a lot of reading. You do a lot of writing first as a lawyer and now as a bookstore owner. And for a lot of folks, this question would probably be answered with reading and writing. But for you, that is your work. So what else do you do to unwind? [00:42:42] Speaker B: Well, I have kind of adopted, just in the last year and a half, a real passion for ballet. And I never took a ballet class really in my life. I wasn't one of those cute little babies that wear the little tutus, but I've always been kind of physically active and I've done a lot of fitness classes and those kinds of things. But ballet is really kind of I don't know, there's something so graceful and beautiful about it. And I'm not beautiful and graceful at it yet, but I guess there's always the aspiring to someday be that. And I just have really enjoyed it. It's super challenging. It's really hard work, and I spend probably somewhere between twelve and 15 hours a week in the ballet studio. [00:43:44] Speaker C: Wow, that is really incredible that you've picked this up at this point in life. And I think for scholars, there's always time for health and wellness, there is always time for the arts. I think that's something you would probably agree with, Lori. [00:43:58] Speaker B: Absolutely. You've got to make that time. [00:44:00] Speaker C: Is there anything I haven't asked about that you want to take a chance here to impart some parting wisdom on our scholars? [00:44:09] Speaker B: I guess the only thing that I would say, and it's probably become apparent based upon the description of the convoluted career history that I have, but I think it's important to be open to some of the unexpected things that are going to happen along your career path. I guess I think that it's good to have a plan, and I probably had less of a plan when I started at Penn State than almost anyone I can think of in terms of understanding what it was that I wanted to do when I grew up. But I think that having a plan is important and it can really help you set some milestones. But don't get hung up on a career trajectory, because I think that you'll find as you get into your career and different phases of life, what you thought that you might want to do or need to do, to feel fulfilled professionally will change and it won't be the same. And you'll see things and opportunities will come up, and you'll never guess that that would have been kind of where you were going to go. But it's life. And when you grab those opportunities, I think you're seldom disappointed because at least, even if they don't work out, it was something that you experienced and you tried. And it will definitely make you think about the next opportunities in a different and more kind of complete way than if you just kind of stuck to the straight line that you thought that you were on. [00:45:52] Speaker C: I think that is great advice, and I hope that you, listening, will consider taking that under consideration. Lori, if a scholar wants to get in touch with you and keep this conversation going a little bit further, explore more, whether it's law or being a small business owner, an entrepreneur, especially in the literary space, how can they connect with you? [00:46:15] Speaker B: I would love to connect. The best way to connect to me is through my Twitter at lorifeathers, or you can email me. It's Lori. [email protected]. And interabang is interabangbooks.com. [00:46:40] Speaker C: Last question. Tradition here on the show, if you were a flavor of berkey creamery ice cream, which would you be? And as a scholar alumna, why that flavor? [00:46:50] Speaker B: Can I have two flavors? Can I have a double scoop? [00:46:53] Speaker C: Well, I'm not actually at the creamery, so I will allow mixing flavors here. [00:46:58] Speaker B: Okay, good. So my first scoop would be Thawn gold ribbon ripple because I did Thawn and it was like the most amazing experience of my college life, probably. So that's my first scoop. My second scoop would be whiteout because it's college football season. Man, I know whiteout is boring because it's just vanilla, but you got to love the name, and I'm ready for a good whiteout. [00:47:28] Speaker C: It's funny. I think you're the first one to pick some of these newer flavors and not the classic standby, so that is great to hear. I'm not sure when this is published in comparison to when we're chatting now, but hopefully we're talking about 48 hours before Penn State kicks off Wisconsin. So hopefully it went well by the. [00:47:46] Speaker B: Time you're listening to this. [00:47:48] Speaker C: Yes, for you in the future from when we're chatting here. So good luck to the knitting lions on the gridiron and all of our other teams kicking off their seasons here this fall. Lori, thank you so much for joining me today and imparting all of your advice on two wildly different industries for our scholars today. So thank you. [00:48:08] Speaker B: Thank you, Sean. It was a real pleasure. [00:48:17] Speaker A: Thank you, scholars, for listening and learning with us today. We hope you will take something with you that will contribute to how you shape the world. This show proudly supports the Shrier Honors College Emergency Fund, benefiting scholars experiencing unexpected financial hardship. You can make a difference at raise. psu.edu forward slash shriyer. Please be sure to hit the relevant. [00:48:38] Speaker C: Subscribe like or follow button on whichever. [00:48:41] Speaker A: Platform you are engaging with us on today. You can follow the college on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to stay up to date on news, events and deadlines. If you have questions about the show. [00:48:51] Speaker C: Or a scholar alum who'd like to join us as a guest here on. [00:48:53] Speaker A: Following the Gone, please connect with me at scholar alumni at psu.edu. Until next time. Please stay well. And we are.

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